In the center of a busy Florida city, a red-brick building sits abandoned. Inside, rotting furniture gathers dust while strange bottles with poisonous contents are dotted all around. This building has long had a close relationship with death, and even now it sends shivers down the spine.
Back in 1851, a Vermont man named Calvin Oak was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In fact, his doctors gave him just months to live, but Oak wasn’t about to give up without a fight.
Instead, Oak moved more than a thousand miles south to Jacksonville, Florida, where he hoped the warmer climate might improve his health. Apparently, he was right. After all, Oak lived on for three decades and became a leading entrepreneur in the growing city.
Indeed, Oak tried his hand at several different ventures in Jacksonville. For instance, he constructed the city’s earliest factory and also ran a jewelry store. Then, in 1856, he launched a funeral business together with his son Byron.
When Oak died, Byron carried on with the business, renaming it the Moulton & Kyle Funeral Home. And by 1914, the company had grown to such an extent that it was in need of new premises.
Moulton & Kyle duly commissioned architects Mark & Shetfall to design the new building, which they eventually constructed in Jacksonville’s downtown district. Interestingly, the architects chose a Prairie School style for the structure. This linear type of architecture was popular in the Midwestern U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Over the years, the business underwent many transformations. For instance, the company later added an impressive garage to the building, complete with a turntable. Not long after that, though, S.M. McLellan bought the company and changed its name to the Kyle McLellan Funeral Home.
So, for nearly 100 years, the premises on West Union Street provided an essential service to the people of Jacksonville. Indeed, as the decades passed, the funeral home’s distinctive black hearses became a familiar sight on the city’s streets.
Then, at the beginning of the 1990s, the Peeples Family Funeral Home bought the company. Sadly, the new owners decided in 2013 that it was time to upgrade the facilities. It therefore moved to a new building 12 miles away and abandoned the old premises on West Union Street.
Three years later, an anonymous photographer from the urban exploration blog AbandonedSoutheast.com somehow found their way into the building. The haunting images they captured there reveal a funeral home seemingly trapped in time, with coffins and furniture still scattered throughout the rooms.
Although the building had only been empty for a few years, in the photos it looks as if no one has set foot inside for decades. For instance, at some point a portion of the roof has collapsed. Moreover, the extreme Florida weather has clearly wreaked havoc within the dusty walls.
Still, from the outside, the funeral home looks innocuous enough, with simple white shutters shielding it from prying eyes. But once you see inside, you’re half-expecting a scene from a horror movie to unfold around every corner.
In one room, a row of empty coffins stand with their lids wide open, as if waiting to receive occupants who will never come. And strangely, the building was still being supplied with electricity, meaning the occasional working lamp continued to illuminate its creepy interiors.
In one image, an old-fashioned mortuary bed serves as another stark reminder of the building’s gruesome past. Furniture that would once have been grand crumbles and decays, while old electric chandeliers dangle precariously from rotting ceilings.
Other leftover items are smaller, but no less macabre. For example, the offices are littered with bottles of hazardous chemicals, fluids once used for embalming corpses. Elsewhere, an old package of needles and some white thread hint at the stomach-churning processes once performed within these walls.
The photographs also display numerous papers left behind when the firm moved premises. But as well as the collections of bills, the funeral records provided an eerie catalogue of the final movements of Jacksonville’s deceased through the ages.
Some of them, it turned out, did not travel very far at all. On one shelf, the cremated remains of three women who died in the 1950s had gathered dust for more than 60 years. Although clearly labeled with family names, for some reason nobody ever arrived to collect them.
Away from the main funeral home, more strange surprises await. For instance, one image shows a black Cadillac hearse in surprisingly good condition sitting inside the garage.
Suspended in a similar state of decay, the building’s empty chapel is even creepier. Inside, row after row of empty pews face an abandoned lectern, where a song book lay open at the beginning of a hymn.
Since appearing on the AbandonedSoutheast.com blog, the photographs have inspired some lively conversations online – including local speculation that the building is soon to be torn down. Whatever the ultimate fate of this abandoned funeral home, though, the images are a haunting testament to a place that still seems to skirt the boundaries between life and death.